© 2011 David's Harp and Pen
DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from any Quentin Tarantino fans, comic book enthusiasts, or anyone born during the 1930s. If you are really upset with me, then I suppose I must take the high road and do the noble thing by blaming my faults on my ancestors.
My parents had me late in life. While most of my friends’ parents were hippies who downed the establishment and blasted Credence Clearwater Revival from their souped-up VW vans, my parents reminisced about the good old days when the evil Axis powers threatened the world with extinction and how they had only cockroaches to eat every night but were happy to have them and didn’t complain. I heard unending tales of woe, tales of the Great Depression, World War II, and spirit-crushing poverty. My parents’ descriptions of growing up in that era were so vivid, and the sense of urgency with which they talked about those times were such that, until I left home at the age of 18, I thought the Depression and World War II were still going on and Franklin Roosevelt was still president. Mom and Dad were part of what is commonly referred to as the Silent Generation, and they had a moral code that differs slightly from that of my generation. They believed we were entitled to nothing except the responsibility to work hard, that a person only slept with one other person, namely their spouse, and that was a lifelong gig, and finally, that a person should never, EVER talk about his or her private life.
A common saying of those born around my parents’ time was, “We don’t talk about what happens behind closed doors.” Growing up, I heard it so much, both from my parents and from others of that generation, that I early on adapted the idea that all of us are two people: the person we show to the public, and the one we are in private, and that these two people are always in opposition.
I didn’t realize until recently how much that duplicity had permeated my thinking and my view of myself, and in the last decade or so, this phenomenon became even more troublesome, and here’s why. We have witnessed a lot of scandals involving celebrities, ministers, and politicians in recent days. When someone is caught doing something they’re not supposed to, particularly if it’s a high profile Christian, people will often say, “That’s the real so-and-so.” For example, let’s say there’s a televangelist who preaches fiery sermons and gives a lot of money to the poor, and then he’s caught with a prostitute. People will point fingers at him and say that the part of him that pays women to sleep with him is the “real” him. Not the part of him that is bold in proclaiming the Gospel or is generous to those in need. The good things are always referred to as the act or show, and the “true” person is always the one that screws up. So, subconsciously, as I witnessed this happen both in people’s observations of others and of me when I made mistakes, I adopted the idea that the good things in me were an illusion and the real me consisted solely of my faults and shortcomings.
In the last year, for various reasons, I have found myself saying quite a bit, to myself and to close friends, “No one would love me if they knew the real me.” Judging from the feedback I have gotten from those to whom I have made this confession, this seems to be a fear everyone experiences. Throughout my life, I had been able to keep that underlying insecurity pretty much at bay, but I learned, much to my dismay, that nothing feeds that fear quite like being in love. Except for a minor crush around 2004, I hadn’t had romantic feelings for anyone since the year 2000. Then to meet someone and experience all those unsettling emotions again, especially given the fact that the man, in my eyes, was completely out of my league, was a recipe for full-blown distress. Every time I saw or talked to him, I could hear the “he’ll never love you once he sees the real you” resounding in my head over my internal loud speaker. My insecurity about the matter reached a fever pitch on Good Friday of this year, so much so that I found myself crying my eyes out to a girl friend at P.F. Chang’s in front of a packed out crowd and one very concerned server. (Alright, the boy thing wasn’t the only reason I was crying, but it was high on the list.) Now, things didn’t work out with the guy, and he would say that it had nothing to do with me, either, but the whole situation of being in love after not having experienced it for so long made me see how deep seeded my fear of vulnerability and “the real me” really was.
The last two months have been fraught with all sorts of challenges, and as I’ve faced uncharted waters, I have become more fearful of the real me, as I had always viewed that woman, and how adversity tends to expose who I am in my heart of hearts. Sometimes, when that thought about the real me being completely repulsive crept in, I would start to ask myself, “Well, what is it that I think is so terrible about me that if exposed, people in general (and potential Boazes in particular) would run away screaming?” I worry too much? Sometimes, when I’m too tired to do the dishes, I let Bruno do them instead? That I’ve been known on occasion to pee while in the shower? That I often incite homicidal tendencies in my men friends because I am relentlessly curious and ask too many questions? Or maybe that, since I live alone, I will drink Diet Dr. Pepper straight out of the two-liter bottle? I have secrets much darker than the ones I just mentioned, and I’m happy to say that everyone to whom I have confessed those secrets, at least in my adult life, are still my friends. I even shared them with the aforementioned love interest, and it didn’t faze him. However, I knew this fear of letting people see the big, bad, real me, was quickly becoming crippling to me, and when I talked about it with God last week, I got an answer I wasn’t expecting.
“Sharon,” God said, “Christ in you is the ‘real’ you.” And that changed everything.
The Old Testament is full of references about the wickedness of man and the deceitfulness of the human heart. All of that is outside of a relationship with Christ, though. When I was reborn into the family of God, I was given a new heart and a new spirit, one that desires to please God and love those around me sincerely. Those besetting sins that hampered me as an unbeliever and tripped me up as a new child of God are no longer an inherent part of me. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross, and the metamorphosis He orchestrated in me, that about me, which reflects God and is in communion with Him is not only the part of me that is real, but also the part of me that is permanent. Perhaps I can illustrate it better this way: before I was a Christian, my sin and all the negative things about me were like birth defects or congenital abnormalities. I was stuck with them. When I got saved, my sin and shortcomings were like the flu: yes, a pain, and sometimes lingering, but just a disease, a curable one, and in no way a reflection of my genetic makeup. Getting a grip on what is truly me and what is the lie makes dealing with sin and negative habits so much easier.
A few years ago, I watched “Kill Bill” (both volumes). I looked past the fact that it was gratuitous violence and the improbability of one really skinny blonde woman single-handedly killing 88 martial arts masters. In one scene, David Carradine’s character is discussing Superman to Uma Thurman’s character. He explains that Superman is different from the majority of other super heroes because he was born with his super powers, whereas most other super heroes got their powers later in life. Therefore, the real Superman isn’t Clark Kent. Rather, it’s the other way around. The real man isn’t the bumbling, clumsy reporter who can’t string a coherent sentence together in front of an attractive woman. The real man is the one who travels faster than a speeding bullet, is more powerful than a locomotive, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound. The real me is the Super Sharon, the recreated, reborn more than a conqueror through Christ who loves me, and I can say, at long last, that the real me looks pretty good.